Thursday, August 09, 2012

Quinn says reporters should not tour prisons

By Jamey Dunn

Gov. Pat Quinn said today that he stands behind the Illinois Department of Corrections denying a reporter entry into state prisons.

When asked if reporters should be granted tours of prisons, Quinn said: “I don’t believe in that. ...When it comes to our security of our prisons, I go with the correctional office [and] the director that I have in the Department of Corrections. Security comes first, and it isn’t a country club.” The question came after a report from WBEZ Chicago that DoC denied a reporter’s request to tour a minimum security prison in Vienna to investigate reports of prisoners living in squalid conditions. According to WBEZ, Quinn’s administration told reporter Rob Wildeboer that he could not go into the prison because of security concerns. The department has denied other requests by reporters to tour prisons, including a request from Illinois Issues in April to tour the super-maximum-security prison near Tamms. (For more on Tamms, see Illinois Issues June 2102.) Quinn has recently come under fire for a lack of transparency in the DoC.

Quinn said that he plans to look into reports of dangerous living conditions in the Vienna facility.

The governor has also temporarily halted any transfers of prisoner related to his plans to close seven corrections facilities. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 has sued to block the closures, claiming that they will create unsafe working conditions for its members. The union is suing to stop the closure of Tamms, as well as a women’s prison in Dwight. It is also suing to keep open adult transition centers in Decatur, Carbondale and Chicago and youth prisons in Joliet and Murphysboro. Quinn has stopped closure plans until another hearing is held next week.

“The state remains committed to our closure plans; however, as we will be back in court August 17, we have agreed to stop inmate transfers related to the closures for the time being. We offered to properly hear AFSCME’s grievances on an expedited basis, and we now look forward to resolving this matter as quickly as possible through the arbitration process set out in the collective bargaining agreement,” Quinn spokeswoman Kelly Kraft said in a written statement.

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